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tv   U.S. Senate 11082017  CSPAN  November 8, 2017 11:59am-2:00pm EST

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democratic friends are simply ignoring the urgency of the situation. the stagnation of american workers' wages and couples finding it harder to start families or once they do, pay for a college education. as my friend, the junior senator from florida, senator rubio, wrote a few days ago in "the new york times," it's more than time to reconcile our social contract to the realities that working families face. the tax code has not been comprehensively overhauled since 1986. now some of us are trying to, the swamp is fighting back. and it's important that we win this fight against the swamp, the special interest groups that try to come in and protect the various special interest tax provisions that make our code unnecessarily complicated and force us to look for additional revenue from other sources because they want to protect theirs at the expense of the rest of the country.
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but the do nothing approach of the past, recent past will not work. we can't let them stop us because hardworking families are waiting. they're waiting on us to quit stuffing our own pockets and start putting money back into theirs. mr. president, i yield the floor. it's note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mr. mcconnell: mr. president. the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: i ask consent that further proceedings under the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent that notwithstanding rule 22 at 3:45 p.m. today there be 20 minutes of postcloture remaining on the robb nomination equally divided between the
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leaders or designees and following that the senate vote on the confirmation of the robb nomination. if confirmed, the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table and the president be immediately notified of the senate's action. finally, that there be two minutes of debate equally divided prior to the cloture vote on the wehrum nomination. the presiding officer: is there objection? seeing none, without objection. mr. mcconnell: i have six requests for committees to meet during today's session of the senate. they have the approval of the majority and minority leaders. the presiding officer: so noted.
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ms. hirono: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from hawaii. ms. hirono: mr. president, donald trump has consistently made promises to the american people that he refuses to keep. he says one thing and does the exact opposite. his empty promises have already hurt millions of people across the country, from our seniors who depend on medicare and medicaid, to the lgbtq community he promised to protect and dreamers who live in fear of deportation. and now with mr. robb to serve as the general counsel for the nlrb, drum has broke -- donald trump has broken another promise. as an independent agency, the nlrb has an important mission to enforce our nation's labor laws, protect american workers and safeguard their right to organized collectively -- to organize collectively.
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nlrb's mission is not to ignore our nation's labor laws, go after american workers, or weaken their right to organize. yet, peter robb's career has been dedicated to doing all the things that nlrb is not about. joining the antiunion, anti-worker forces, president trump has consistently -- consistently nominated people to the nlrb who are best positioned to destroy and undermine the core functions of the agency itself. earlier this year, president trump forced through two management-side lawyers to create an anti-worker majority on the nlrb. today the senate is debating the nomination of someone who has spent his entire legal career fighting to screw over the very workers that nlrb is supposed to protect. if confirmed as general counsel, mr. robb would be responsible for supervising nearly 1,500
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agents investigating unfair labor practice cases and overseeing elections where workers decide whether or not to unionize. this is a position of great consequence for millions of workers across our great country, and they deserve someone much better than peter robb. mr. robb has spent his career defending management and employers from workers fighting to form a union, unionized workers on strike, and workers who brought forward discrimination and disability claims. you don't have to take my word for it. mr. robb's biography on his own firm's website tells the story clearly. and i quote, he has extensive experience, including advising on mergers, acquisitions, plant closings, labor contract negotiations, both large and
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small, managing lockouts and strikes, discrimination issues, and disability claims. his litigation experience includes defending employers from unfair labor practice charges, age and sex discrimination charges, class action age claims and wager claims as well as bringing suits against labor organizations. with such vast experience and no nonsense approach, peter's clients look to him for sharp advice, rigorous representation and powerful representation. that is a description on his own law firm's website. mr. robb retaliated against workers as lead counsel in the early 1980's when president reagan decertified the air traffic controllers, fired them and barred them from federal
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service. more recently he represented dominion energy's successful attempt to defeat a union organizing campaign at a power station in connecticut. management and corporations have a right to hire lawyers like mry represent their -- rigorus -- vigor russly represent them. he is supposed to protect workers' rights. mr. robb's record clearly demonstrates that he will side with powerful corporations and special interests over workers who lack the resources to defend themselves. unions built the middle class in hawaii and across our country. instead of confirming another management protecter at nlrb, we should work together to protect workers and make it fairer for them to form and join a union, which is their right. i urge my colleagues to join me
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in opposing this nominee. i yield the floor.
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the presiding officer: the senator from washington. ms. cantwell: mr. president, i ask the quorum call -- the presiding officer: there is no quorum call. the senator recognized. ms. cantwell: thank you, mr. president. i rise today to talk about the affordable housing crisis has gripping our nation. when i say "crisis" i mean i know that people here on the precipice of talking about what we're going to do in response to hurricanes harvey and maria and marm, and i think -- i would like to say that the housing
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crisis that will exist in the aftermath of those hurricanes is very real but there are also even greater implications from the housing crisis that exists today without that's hurricanes and that it's only going to continue to grow and get worse until we deal with it. this past february, more than 2,000 families packed into the new holly gathering hall in south seattle. each family was whether to hear its name -- each family was hoping to hear its name call. it was a lot troy see if families could get affordable homes. the mercy athelo plaza would soon open 108 housing units. that is hardly a match for the families hoping to get into the units. but their chance for getting an affordable loan was lower than getting into harvard. 95% of the families attending that night left disappointed, continuing to search for
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affordable housing. this is just one story of how affordable housing crisis is gripping our nation. i am sure that every one of my colleagues here in the senate could talk about a story they've heard in their state because this crisis impacts every state, and it impacts every community, both urban and rural alike. as i've traveled across the state of washington, i've seen some of the most hard-hit areas for affordable housing. i've seen veterans returning home not able to find affordable housing. i've seen an aging population living longer and also not having the resources looking for affordable housing. i've seen young workers wanting to be close to where their employment is and yet having to drive so far away because that's the only place they could find affordable housing. and we have seen homelessness in numbers that reckon back to previous days when we had a true recession. the most damning part of the
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housing crisis is that we know how to solve -- solve it. we just need the courage to act. for decades the housing growth was the most stimulative part of our economy. throughout the 1980's, housing was 18% of g.d.p. today that number has dropped to just 15%, and when people discuss tax reform and g.d.p. growth, housing is still one of the ways that economists will tell us that we can grow g.d.p. in the 1960's and 1970's and 1980's, if somebody said, how do we stimulate our economy, usually a cheer would go up for housing. but since the economic downturn, we haven't heard that cheer. in fact, it's almost as if we have forgotten how stimulative housing is to our economy. the total number of houses built between 2007 and 2016 total just
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8.9 million units, far below the 15 million-plus average for every ten-year period through the 1970's and 190's. -- and 1990's. so we are off the pace of what it takes to provide affordable housing, and as a result, the vacancy rates and inventories for home sales have also fallen. the national vacancy rate, which is the number of homes for sale, has receded to the 2000 level, erasing all the run-up that we saw in the housing boom and, moreover, homeownership in the united states is now at its lowest rate since the 1960's. 20 million american families, including 11 million renters, are now spending more of half of their income on housing. so that means less money for other essentials like food and health care and gas, and the national affordable housing coalition tells us that 7.4
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million more available affordable homes are needed because we have seen an increase in 60% since the year 2000 in the need of affordable housing. so the united states has become a rent-burdened economy, and if we don't address this crisis, the problem is only going to get worse. in fact, one study found that if we don't address this crisis, we are going to see another 25% increase in the number of americans spending more than half of their income in rent. now, i know my colleagues on the other side of the aisle in the house of representatives are talking about what they want to do in tax reform. i would say that they should look at this data as it relates to where we are with homeownership and housing and say things that would eliminate the private active bonds, one of the key drivers of affordable housing production, would be a big mistake if they got rid of that. obviously, there are units of affordable housing that are
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being planned and built right now. in fact, one estimate is that over 100,000 units wouldn't be completed just because of the house provision. obviously limiting the mortgage interest deduction for new homeowners could 03 tensionally increase -- could potentially increase taxes on homeowners and limbing number of people who could afford a home. and almost a third of taxpayers nationally claimed the deductions that they could see as it relates to property tax deductions also could be an impact. i hope our house colleagues and our senate colleagues will see in light of the housing crisis what a terrible idea those things are. but how did we get to this crisis as it exists now? with as i said, part of the -- well, as i said, part of the issue was demand. the 2007 housing crash pushed millions of families into the rental market and reduced wages
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on working families. the demand for rental housing skyrocketed. over 7 million americans lost their homes to foreclose and they demanded more affordable places to live. so today, as i said, the homeownership rate is the lowest in our nation since the 1960's and the last ten years has seen the largest gain of renters on record. so the demand for rental housing shows no sign of slowing down and millennials, like many of the young people that we see who want to be close to jobs in our burgeoning economy, are forced to rent instead of own and they are in big numbers seeing that challenged by the fact that there is not enough supply. so at the same time that demand was going up from returning veterans, from aging seniors, from workplace needs, from many more people being and needing
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affordable housing, having been pushed out of the homeownership market, at the same time demand was going up, failed to keep pace. affordable housing stock is being and was being converted to market-based rate units. that means they got taken out of the affordability framework and a new report showed that the number of apartments deemed affordable for low-income families dropped 60% over the last six years. so as all this pressure and demand to people falling out of the homeownership and pushing things down, we saw so many units that were affordable get transferred over to market-based rates and thereby losing supply. the new production of affordable housing has not filled the gap and production of affordable housing is at its lowest-ten year production rate since 1974. so it, too, has played a role. the combination of increased
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demand and lack of production has caused the explosion in our affordable housing crisis. and the number of americans facing extreme unaffordability -- that means they're paying more than that 50% -- has gone from 7 million americans to 11.2 million americans. as i said earlier, it's a 60% increase in the number of people in the united states who are in this area of extreme unaffordable rates for housing. while i know we're going to discuss natural disasters and helping communities recover everywhere from the families that have been impacted in florida and texas and various places, we also have to just look at the issue of affordable housing every place from seattle and portland and san francisco all the way across the country to philadelphia and miami and many other places.
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in the aftermath of katrina, congress passed an expansion of the low-income housing tax credit, and it built 28,000 affordable unilateral units on the golf. so i know my colleagues will want to do something similar for texas and the gulf states to make sure that we're doing something. but we need to understand that there at the time of katrina was a need for more than 275,000 homes destroyed by that hurricane. so building 28,000 units was barely a blip. the low-income house being tax credit helped rebuild some units, but it came nowhere close to solving the housing crisis in new orleans. market rates in new orleans are 35% higher after the storm and 37% of households are paying more than half of their income in housing. so now 12 years later another disaster has hit, and we're going to try to address this
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crisis, but the housing burden for extremely low-income families in texas and the major metro areas of texas is among some of the worst in the nation. that is before the crisis, before the actual impact of hurricanes, texas was already at a crisis point. texas has only 29 affordable units for every 100 low-income households looking for those options. houston is the third worst in the country for housing availability for extremely low-income people. and now families from florida to puerto rico are going to also be finding a very difficult situation. expanding the tax credit could help, but we have to do more than just expand the tax credit for those disaster states. we need a very big systematic investment in affordable housing all across the united states.
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and expanding the low-income tax credit is one way to do that. the good news is that we have good bipartisan support for the low-income housing tax credit enacted in 1986. it helped build three million rental units across this country over the last 30 years. and if you want to make a dent in this crisis, both in response to the hurricanes and the crisis that already existed, we need to begin filling that gap by increasing the credit. that is why i joined senator hatch in introducing the affordable housing tax credit improvement act, something that would help us build hundreds of thousands of new units in the next 10 years. i'm glad that senators wyden and portman, sullivan, merkley, scott, collins, kaine, heller, shaheen, murray, schumer, murkowski, young, graham,
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schatz, booker, and hassan, isakson and sanders are all supporters. we have good bipartisan support from people who understand that this crisis is real and that it is only going to grow. but we also know that the additional tax credit would create almost 450,000 new jobs over the next ten years. that is because housing is stimulative to the economy. construction alone supports over two million jobs, and it helps by making sure that that economic impact to g.d.p. is realized now through this investment. it also helps us save money as economy in a country by putting a roof over people's head. one of the reasons i was so excited to work with senator hatch on this is because in his home state, utah had made such
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great progress in dealing with their homeless veteran population. the community just decided by putting a roof over someone's head, they actually helped lower overall costs. one study found that placing people in affordable housing lowered federal medicaid expenditures by an average of 12%. and a university of pennsylvania study found that taxpayers could save $16,000 per homeless person who was placed in affordable housing. so we need to act. we need to realize that housing provides an investment in job creation and has historically contributed between 2% to 4% of g.d.p. growth since the 1980's. that it is an underpinning of our economy, and that we need to make sure that our tax code works to make sure that people are purchasing homes, and also at finding affordable housing. i hope as our colleagues deal with the end of the year policy issues in dealing with response
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to these storms, we'll realize that an underlying crisis also needs attention, that we have worked in a bipartisan basis in the past to address it, and we can work in a bipartisan basis in the future to both stimulate our economy and solve these problems. 90% of the affordable housing units being built in the country use these tax credits, so it's only by extending the tax credits, putting a roof over people's heads, that we are going to be able to deal with this crisis. the good news is it helps us save money, and it helps us with g.d.p. growth. i thank the president, and i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from maryland.
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mr. cardin: mr. president, later today, we will start a process of voting on the confirmation of william wehrum for assistant administrator for the environmental protection agency's office of air and radiation. i take this time to urge my colleagues to reject this nominee and vote against his confirmation. the e.p.a. assistant administrator for office of air and radiation supervises national programs and policies for regulating air pollution and radiation exposure. notably, this office administers the clean air act. as a member of the senate committee on environment and public works, i once again find myself using my voice to say that science and public health, not partisan politics, should drive the confirmation process. if confirmed, mr. wehrum is expected to play a leading role in dismantling climate change
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regulations. since the supreme court decision in massachusetts versus e.p.a. in 2007, that rule that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are dangerous air pollutants, o.a.r. is the office that accepted the endangerment finding and developed the clean power plan to address carbon pollution. given the trump administration's own admissions or lack of suppression in the latest update to the national climate assessment, i quote, that it is extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid 20th century, end quote. it should be common sense to nominate and confirm administrators that care about our environment and our future, including acting on climate change and inexcusably to
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confirm those -- inexcusably not to confirm those who disagree with that. i am not convinced mr. wehrum will act on carbon pollution or any other air pollutant. i would like to take -- i would like to take an extraordinarily independent assistant administrator to resist the current course -- let me start again. it will take an extraordinarily independent assistant administrator to resist the current course at the e.p.a. under e.p.a. administrator scott pruitt. we know we have a challenge at the top. we know we need as a person to head this agency, a person of integrity that will stand up for what science tells us we need to do in protecting air quality. i would argue that mr. wehrum is not that person. let me just go over some of the challenges that we have. for example, in january, 2017, the e.p.a. issued itself a six-month extension to respond to maryland's good neighbor
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petition. the petition alleges that 36 power plants in five neighboring states are preventing maryland from meeting its own obligations under the clean air act. the deadline expired with no e.p.a. action on the petition. on september 27, 2017, maryland filed suit against the e.p.a. on october 5 of this year, the chesapeake bay foundation filed a similar lawsuit because pollution from power plants is a source of nitrogen pollution in the chesapeake bay. on october 27, the e.p.a. denied a separate maryland petition asking the e.p.a. to add nine states to the ozone transport region, alleging that these states contribute to the violation of the 2008 ozone national am buy apartment -- ambient air quality standards. in responding, the e.p.a. determined that the ozone transport region is not
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appropriate at this time because observing rules will redues emissions. the e.p.a. responds that those under the clean air act good neighbor provisions will be more effective in addressing these 2008 ozone targets. the e.p.a. reasoning to deny the ozone transport region petition that existing roles will adequately address transported pollution is predicated on the sincere implementation of those rules. in fact, maryland did utilize, we did utilize better targeted approach. we filed a good neighbor petition last november that was ignored for one year, prompting the lawsuit against the e.p.a. based on his professional history and testimony, i do not have reason to believe that mr. wehrum will ensure the existing rules will adequately address air pollution. while he worked at the e.p.a. during the george w. bush administration, mr. wehrum attempted to direct the agency's air requirements to favor markets earned, praised from the
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industry groups he would later represent in private practice. how can we ask mr. wehrum to objectively administer the clean air act after a career spent on one side? he has 20 years-plus working for the industry as a lobbyist. he has a record of ignoring science in the recommendations that he made. there are examples where he absolutely disagreed with expert groups. just to give you one example, the academy of american pediatricians assessment on mercury and air toxins submissions, mr. wehrum took issue and disagreed with their findings. he was seen as an unacceptable choice in 2007 when he was nominated to lead the same agency by president bush, and his nomination withdrawn over democratic opposition. so this is not the first time that we have had a chance to deal with mr. wehrum for this position. in the interim, he has only continued his work to advantage industry by advocating for
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weakening the clean air act. i will continue to stand up for the right of marylanders and all americans to air that is safe to breathe and a climate that is livable and all of us can help in that regard by rejecting this nominee. mr. president, i would suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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mr. barrasso: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from wyoming. mr. barrasso: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. barrasso: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, one year ago the american people went to the
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polls. the american people demanded a change. they demanded a change from eight years of too little economic growth and too much government control and regulations. the effect was immediate and the effect was incredible. in the past year we have gotten a lot of very good news about the american economy. right after the election, businesses became much more optimistic about the direction of our country, and they started hiring. last friday we learned that in the united states we have created more than two million jobs since election day 2016. someone said to me, well, you shouldn't count it from election day. you should count it from inaugurals day. but -- inauguration day. on election day in my home state of wyoming there was a feeling, a positive feeling that started just at the moment that it was announced that donald trump had been elected president of the
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united states of. right now we've seen the economy grow at more than 3% for the past two quarters. consumer confidence has just reached the highest level in almost 17 years. all of this is happening since president trump was elected and this is very good news for america. now we can't stop now. we have to do all that we can to move the path toward a more prosperous country. we've got to get along that path. americans are optimistic because they know that president trump is focused on easing the regulations that have held back our economy for the last eight years. we know that government can create opportunity or crush opportunity based on a combination of regulations, mandates, and taxes. and we are now in the land of opportunity with eliminating the regulations and pulling back on the taxes to helping our economy grow. the president has signed
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legislation that we passed in this congress repealing one after another of the obama administration's rules, regulations, and restrictions. president trump has issued executive orders cutting back on excessive red tape. president trump has appointed very good people to important jobs who are committing to reining in washington's out-of-control bureaucracy. all of these things are important and critical at keeping our economy growing. another big part of this is what we're trying to do now in terms of cutting taxes for the american people that they have been paying. people want to keep more of their own money, it's hard-earned money. they want to keep it in their own pockets. here in the senate we now have a once in a generation opportunity to cut taxes in a way that will actually help american families. we can help families directly by raising their incomes and we can help them indirectly by growing the economy. here's how we can do both, because that needs to be our goal. the first thing we can do is to
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give people a raise by doing things like doubling the standard deduction. we raise the deduction, people keep more of their hard-earned money, and it makes taxes simpler. right now the standard deduction for a married couple is $12,000. two-thirds of americans take that deduction. if we roughly double it, people won't pay any federal income tax at all on that first $24,000 they earn. that's a big cut. it means that a lot more people will decide to take this deduction instead of having going through the painstaking process of itemizing their deductions on the tax return. it saves them a lot of time. it saves them a lot of headaches and it saves them the cost of the accountants and the lawyers who have to help people figure out a -- the very complicated taxes in this country. millions of families will be better off just from this one tax cut alone. the second thing the republicans are looking to do is to reduce the tax rate for small
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businesses, the people who are creating jobs all across the country. if someone owns a small business in my home state of wyoming, she probably ends up paying taxes on her personal tax return rather than on a separate business tax return. to cut her cut tax bill, the money she can use to give her workers a raise and create more jobs in our community. she can put money back into the business to help to grow the economy as well. you know, when you leave more money in people's pockets, they get to decide how to use that money. what they decide to spend, what they decide to save, what they decide to invest, because i'll tell you people i believe are much better at watching their own money than the government ever is at giving people value for that money. so we want to make sure that tax reform includes a break for small businesses. they use the word around here tax reform. to me it's about tax reduction, tax relief, tax cuts. republicans also want to bring
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down the rates that washington charges other businesses. if we can cut the rate that businesses pay from 35% down to 20%, that could be an enormous boost to the economy. the economists that look at this say it's like giving the average american family a $4,000 a year raise. that's how much the average household's income they tell us would go up. it's because workers actually bear most of the burden of taxes that businesses pay. now democrats don't seem to think that this money belongs te money belongs to washington. it doesn't. it belongs to the people at home who earn it. democrats often think that if you give americans even a single dollar in tax cuts that you're taking away washington's money. it's not washington's money. the money belongs to the people at home. so we know the exact opposite of what the democrats believe to be true. republicans know that giving americans a tax cut is the same as giving them a raise.
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every dollar a family doesn't have to send to washington in taxes is a dollar that they can use for something better. it's a dollar they can use for food, for shelter, for kids, for education, for things that matter to that family personally. it's another dollar a small business can use to help grow the economy in that community. tax cuts mean that people decide how to spend their own money, washington doesn't decide. families know how to use the money much better than washington ever will. so if, as we debate these issues and ideas with regard to tax relief, we have an exciting opportunity to give the american people a raise and to give the american economy a boost. this is something a lot of people have been working on a long time here in the senate, mr. president. over the past six years, the finance committee has held over 70 hearings on how to make our
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tax code better for all americans. republicans are working and we're listening to make sure that we get the tax reform right that the american people and families need. because when it comes to tax cuts, i believe the more the better. the more people who can get a tax cut, the better, that's the more our economy will then grow, that's better. it's our job. it's about paychecks, it's about jobs, it's about a strong and healthy economy for america. that's what we as republicans are committed to. we cannot let this opportunity pass. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. mr. sanders: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from vermont. mr. sanders: thank you. mr. president, whether one is a progressive or a democrat or a conservative or a republican or
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somewhere in between, there is a deep understanding in this country that we are living in a rigged economy and people are increasingly angry and frustrated about the growing inequality and unfairness that they say all about them. it is hard to believe, but in the united states of america today, the top one-tenth of 1% owns almost as much wealth bottom 90%. a study came out fairly recently indicating that in the united states of america today, the three wealthiest people in our country, bill gates, jeff bezos, and warren buffett now own more wealth than the bottom half of the american people.
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three people own more wealth than the bottom half of the american people. meanwhile, while the very, very rich get richer, some 40 million americans are living in poverty. these are people who are struggling today to figure out how to put food on the table for their kids, how to put gas in their car in order to go to work, how to pay their electric bills, how to pay for child care. middle class is disappearing. people are working two and three jobs. young people for the first time in the modern history of this country may have a standard of living lower than their parents. and on top of all of that, we remain the only major country on earth not to guarantee health care to all of our people, 28 million today have no health insurance, many more are underinsured, and if our republican colleagues get their way, they will throw in another
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20 million, 30 million people off the health insurance that they have. but it is not only the reality of grotesque levels of inequality that are making the american people despondent and angry. it is the reality that the people on top, with that wealth and with their power, can access lawyers and accountants who are able to manipulate the system to benefit themselves at the expense of everyone else, and that is the essence of what a rigged economy is about and what i want to say a few words about today. in my view, one of the great crises facing our world -- and we are in a world of many crises -- is the rapid movement toward international oligarchy in which a handful of
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billionaires own and control not just a significant part of the american economy, but a significant part of the world economy. this is, needless to say, an issue that doesn't get a whole lot of discussion because, in general, the more important the issues are the less discussion they get within the corporate media or within the political world that we live in here in the congress. but let me reiterate that one of the great crises that we face is that a handful of billionaires are moving this entire planet toward an oligarchy society in which the people on top not only have incredible wealth but incredible political power as well. on sunday -- just this last sunday -- a group of investigative journalists released over 13 million files money as the paradise papers
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exposing just how horrific this situation has become. these papers show how a handful of ollie gashings -- oligarchs in the united states and throughout the world get richer by hiding their wealth offshore to avoid paying their taxes. the list of those in the paradise papers include billionaires such as the koch brothers and robert mercer and wells fargo, citigroup, and bank of america. it includes large multinational corporations like nike, apple, and exxonmobil, and it includes members of the trump administration like secretary of state rex tillerson, wilbur
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ross, gary cohen, and treasury secretary steve mnuchin. let's be clear, offshore tax evasion is a major problem, not just for the united states but for governments throughout the world, and this is really quite unbelievable, but in the year 2012 the tax justice network estimated that at least $21 trillion -- $21 trillion, a number almost beyond comprehension -- is being stashed in offshore tax havens around the world. imagine that. $21 trillion flowing into tax haven in the cayman island, luks
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'emburg -- luxembourg to avoid taxes not only the united states, but great britain, france, germany, et cetera, et cetera. it's a funny thing about these guys. all of these billionaires, they love veterans and they love the military and they want to see us rebuild the infrastructure and they want to see our kids get a good education, but you know what? they don't want to pay taxes to make that happen. they want ordinary people to pay the taxes. so republicans here want to increase military spending by $50 billion, $6 billion. not the billionaires, they are not going to pay that, they have their money in the cayman islands. it is the middle class, upper middle class that will pay. they want us to pay except when it comes to make sure that we
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provide the services that our men, women, and children need. now, the situation has become so absurd -- and this is really how crazy it is -- that one five-story office building in the cayman islands is now the home of nearly 20,000 corporations. now, as best i understand, this particular building in the cayman islands, called the ugland house, is five stories. now, i know you can squeeze people into a building. sometimes three or four people live in a room. but i think it's a little bit hard to understand how 20,000 corporations function in a five-story building. and, of course, the answer is 20,000 corporations do not function in this five-story building. it's all a fraud. it's simply a mailbox address
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for 20,000 corporations who are in this building in order to avoid paying their taxes. they are stashing their profits and wealth in corporations that use this building as a mailing address. mr. president, in the united states alone -- and i know we're busy talking about so-called tax reform here -- offshore tax evasion costs our government about $166 billion in lost revenue each and every year. now, that is money -- it's a lot of money -- that could be used to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, our roads, our bridges, our water systems. $1 trillion, that's eight or nine years of that $166 billion, could create up to 15 million
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good-paying jobs. that is money that could be used to provide universal pre-k for our children so that when kids get ready to go to school they'll be prepared to do the work there, but instead of cracking down on offshore tax schemes, president trump and my republican colleagues in congress are working overtime to pass legislation that would make this absurd situation even worse. at a time when corporations are making record breaking profits, my republican colleagues want to slash taxes for companies that are shifting american jobs to china and american profits to the cayman islands. at a time of massive wealth and income inequality, president trump and republicans in congress want to cut taxes for
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billionaires by repealing the estate tax on families who inherit over $5.5 million. mr. president, i think the american people grasp the unfairness and absurdity of the republican tax proposal. the top one-tenth of 1% owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90%, the very, very rich is getting richer while the middle class is shrinking, and the republican response is to give massive tax breaks to the top two tenths of -- two-tenths of 1%. these are families like the walton family, the wealthiest family in america that owns wal-mart that would get up to a $50 billion tax break. the koch brothers, who have enough money to spend hundreds of millions of dollars, trying
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to elect right-wing candidates to congress. massive tax breaks for billionaires, and at the same time, an effort to throw up to 30 million people off of the health insurance they have, massive cuts in education, in nutrition, and the programs that working families desperately need. mr. president, instead of providing even more tax breaks to very profitable corporations and to billionaires in president trump's cabinet, maybe, just maybe, it might be a good idea to go forward to close offshore tax loopholes and demand a fair transparent and progressive tax system. so i would hope that the american people are catching on, as i believe they are, to what a fraud the republican tax
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proposal is. today one out of five major profitable corporations already pay zero in federal income tax. now, you can't do much better than paying zero in federal income tax and be a profitable corporation, but that's what's going on. republicans want to make that even worse, and then they want millions of middle-class people by the end of the decade to pay more in taxes. that is absurd and i hope the american people stand up and demand that we do not go forward with that proposal. mr. president, on another issue, i do want to mention that there is a crisis in primary health care, and unless congress acts immediately, that crisis is likely to become much worse. millions of americans are at risk of losing their access to health care because congress has still not renewed funding for
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the community health center program which expired on september 30. our nation's community health centers provide affordable, high-quality health care to more than 27 million people and what community health centers do is not only provide high-quality primary health care but also dental care, mental health counseling, and low-cost prescription drugs. mr. president, community health centers not only save lives, they also end up saving money because would they do is keep people out of emergency rooms. they keep people out of hospitals because people can now get to the doctor when they should. and the savings are really quite significant. investing in community health centers keeps people healthier, keeps people alive, and saves taxpayers money. not only do we have to renew funding for the community health
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center program, we must also improve and expand the national health service corps, one of the really very positive health programs that the federal government runs. and what this program understands is that for a variety of reasons, including the fact that many young people leave medical school $300,000, $400,000 in debt, it is very hard to get young doctors and dentists and nurses and nurse practitioners to underserved areas in rural america or in urban america. what this program does is provide debt forgiveness and sometimes scholarships for young graduates of medical school or nursing school or dental school and say if you are prepared to practice in an underserved area, we will forgive your loans. and that's a big deal in attracting providers to areas that we desperately need them. now, the bad news is, as every american knows, this congress,
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this country are very politically divided. that is no great secret. but the good news is that in terms of community health centers, the truth is that from the inception of the program, senator ted kennedy was one of the founders of the program working with republicans, that since the inception of this program, there has been a wide -- widespread understanding on both sides of the aisle that communities all over america in every state in our country are benefiting from community health centers, whether it's rural areas, whether it's urban areas, or any place in between. and what i am very happy to note is there is excellent legislation, bipartisan legislation here in the senate introduced by senator roy blunt and senator debbie stabenow that would reauthorize the successful
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programs for five years and provide modest increases in their funding. this program not only has the support of virtually perhaps every democrat or every member of the democratic caucus, but i think it has at least nine or ten republican cosponsors. and i believe if that bill were to be brought to the floor of the senate, it would pass with overwhelming support, overwhelming support because every senator here knows the excellent work done by community health centers from one end of this country to the other. so, mr. president, i would hope that this issue gets the attention that it deserves. it should have been funded at the end of the fiscal year. it hasn't. i just talked to a physician in burlington, vermont, who works for a community health center. they are worried and doctors and nurses all across this country
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are worried as are patients about the lack of reauthorization of this very important bill. so i would hope, mr. president, that this bill gets moved very quickly along with the chip program. there is bipartisan support for it, and i hope we can get it to the floor and get it passed as quickly as possible. with that, mr. president, i would yield the floor. i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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mr. blunt: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator missouri. mr. blunt: i move to we suspend the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. blunt: mr. president, this coming week will mark veterans day. it is an important time for us to reflect on what veterans do for us and what their families do for us, the sacrifices that both those who serve and those who support those who serve is incredibly important. and we have half a million missouri veterans and one of the great privileges of this job to get to represent them and the values and commitment to freedom in our country that they stand for. just a couple of weeks ago i had the opportunity to welcome a group of southwest mo veterans -- southwest missouri veterans who came to washington with the horn program. every time i get a chance, if there is an honor flight from our state, i fry to get down there because -- i try to get down there because it is a great time to see and talk to and thank those who have serve us. when the honor flight started 20
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years ago or so, there were still some world war i veterans coming. then there were almost all world war ii veterans, and today we see a few world war ii veterans and some korea veterans and some vietnam veterans, all of whom continue to serve in the great tradition of being willing to fight for the freedoms that we enjoy every day. i find it humbling and gratifying to know that those veterans get to come here and he joy the day with -- and enjoy the day with each other, but in many cases it is the first time they've been to the capital. they go to the world war ii memorial and to arlington and other places on that trip that now so many tensions of those have taken. many of those veterans that i saw the other day and that i've seen for the history of the honor flight were just teenagers when they answered the call to
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serve. basically, a little more than high school kids who knew that something needed to be done and they were able and willing to do it. they fought difficult battles in some cases, often under unbearable conditions. some of them lost their closest friends in the military. many of them lost comrades in arms. some of them lost comrades who were right beside them. some of them lost people who went out on another mission and never came back. some of their families lost the veteran-to-be that never got to be veteran. i was down just recently, periville missouri, on the mississippi river. this building, an exact replica -- a you full-sized replica of the vietnam wall. i was down and we were able to
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present them with a flag, the group that had raised the money and made the plans. at the vietnam memorial on the wall to take back the part of the vietnam memorial at perryville. our veterans are an extraordinary group of men and women. they really stand for the best we stand for as a nation. it's important that we just don't honor them on veterans day but honor them every day, every day that we live in this free and prosperous nation that they helped defend. admittedly, it's hard not to take all the freedoms that we enjoy for granted because generations of americans have been able to fight -- have been willing and fight and die to protect those freedoms. americans have benefited from those freedoms and it seems to
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us the way people should have able to live everywhere and maybe too often we think it's even the way people do live everywhere, but in many parts of the world, having the security to walk out the door everything morning, to drop your kids off at school, to go to work and earn a living, to worship as you please, to build a better life is not available to people in other countries the way it is here because of the debt of gratitude we owe to our veterans. this year one of the areas of great legislative success has been in the work for veterans. chairman isakson of georgia is going to follow me on the floor in just a few minutes, and he is the chairman of that veterans' committee, and sure he's got a great committee, but they've got a great chairman, and that committee, it's chairman -- the committee in the house -- have passed eight bills at least that the president of the united states has signed into law that
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do a number of things for our veterans. we've built on previous progress for improving veterans' care. a few years ago we made the decision that veterans need to have more choices. that if you are a he a veteran, you shouldn't have to drive by the hospital that you'd like to go to to go to a hospital miles and hours away. you shouldn't have to drive by three facilities that would do as good a job or a better job to get to a veterans' facility. now there are some things our veterans facilities should be better at than anybody else. they should be better at dealing with post-traumatic stress in all likelihood than anybody else. so they may not be as accessible. they should be better at dealing with i.e.d. attacks and eye injuries, and since all time people who work with veterans, prosthetics, people who've lost arms and legislative session in the service of their country, they should be pretty good at that. there's no particular reason they should be all that good at
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open-heart surgery or at kidney dialysis or all the other things you go to the hospital for. and if that's where you want to go, if you're a veteran you should be able -- if you're a veteran, you should be able to go there. but what we found out is a lot of veterans would rather go closer to home. a lot of veterans would rather go to a hospital they're more familiar with when they need their own health care. they'd like to go a hospital they've been to with other family members and others. so we've really expanded the veterans choice program and expanded the money available for that program, as you're trying to create these opportunities side by side with an existing facility, there's got to be some start-up money involved. but eventually i think our young veterans are going to find that they can almost always find a hospital they'd rather go to or a doctor they'd rather see. we've increased compensation for veterans with service-connected
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disabilities and world war ii veterans like arla herald from st. louis who has suffered a lifetime of illness because he was part of a mustard gas experiment, is finally getting both the compensation and the recognition that his lifetime health was impacted by something that happened while he was serving his country. we've continued efforts to address the problems that the veterans administration has had by passing legislation to modernize the outdated benefits claims appeals process, to make it easier for v.a. employees to be fired. you know, while we want to protect employees who point out what's wrong, there's plenty -- by the way, there's been plenty of whistles to be blown at the v.a. over the last decade, and
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while we want to be sure people can blow those whistles, we also want to be sure that the v.a. can quickly and effectively move to remove employees who are not doing what they ought to do and in fact are aggressively doing in some cases things they shouldn't be doing. we've worked to expand the possibility and the opportunity for educational benefits by expanding what can happen under the post-9/11 g.i. bill and helping connect vents with employers who -- veterans with employers who provide benefits. a bill that i sponsored in the congress was, i think, the -- part of the first major piece of legislation that the congress passed this year, and within 11 months or so, starting when that passed and i think sometime in the next few weeks, the department of labor is going to be talking about how we recognize and evaluate employers who hire veterans, who give
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veterans credit for skills they learned in the military, who promote veterans. every employer that wants to say they hire veterans, that's a good thing because you should want to do that. but the hire vets act is sort of like the lead standard for energy. the hire vets act creates a standard that we can recognize companies who do that and do that in a significant way and i'll pleased that secretary acosta at the department of labor has really put that on the fast-track to get that done so these companies can begin to be recognized for what they do. our veterans who have worked hard, do dangerous things, have kept us safement. -- kept us safe, we tow them our continued job as legislators just as we tow them to follow in their footsteps, ensure that people who defend our country always have everything they need to defend our country and we are
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grateful to those who defended the can unin the past. -- who defended the country in the past. and i would yield the floor. mr. isakson: mr. president, i want to thank senator blunt, the distinguished senator from missouri, for his eloquent remarks on our veterans. for his support of all things that you, mr. president, and i have tried to do in the veterans' committee and for pointing out the many reasons why we in america are so proud of the veterans who serve us and allow you and i object to here today. if it were not for our veterans, rest assure, this republic would not exist. i did an interview this morning, with an reporter who wanted to ask me a number of questions about the current administration and what we were doing for veterans. it turned out to be a 35-40 minute interview. he said, i have a got one more question about you. this was on our phones. he said, i've got one more question for you.
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he said, don't you think we could save a lot of money if we didn't fight anymore wars? and i thought for a minute. i said, we probably characters but there wouldn't be any reason for you and i to exist because america is the place we want to be because we're safe. i'm going to bring that up because that is the reason we celebrate veterans day. give thanks to the men and women who volunteer to serve in our country-and-in the wars overseas and battles overseas and sometimes challenges domestically. to protect us and keep us flee. america is a great country. you don't find anybody trying to break out of the united states of america. they're all trying to break in. for a very good reason -- it is a safe and free place to raise a family, start a business, and serve in many other ways. so this year on the 11th day at the 11th hour and the 11th minute of november, when you celebrate, pause for a


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